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Google, Apple, Microsoft, Dell and Tesla accused of profiting from child labour in DR Congo

Human rights lawyers file class action case on behalf of the maimed children and the parents of the deceased

FIVE major tech companies including Google, Apple and Microsoft have had a lawsuit filed against them in the United States for aiding and abetting the extreme abuse of children forced to labour in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Representing 14 anonymous plaintiffs — made up of the parents/guardians of children killed or maimed in the mines or the mutilated children themselves — International Rights Advocates filed the federal class-action lawsuit against the firms on Sunday.

The rights lawyers say their clients have evidence that the corporations named in the lawsuit — Apple, Alphabet (Google), Dell, Microsoft and Tesla — have “aided and abetted the mining concerns that abused and profited from forcing the plaintiffs and other children to mine cobalt under conditions that led to their deaths or serious, crippling injuries.”

The lead counsel, Terry Collingsworth, said: “We will do everything possible to get justice quickly for the children we represent.

“In my 35 years as a human rights lawyer, I’ve never seen such extreme abuse of innocent children on a large scale. This astounding cruelty and greed needs to stop.”

Professor Siddharth Kara, a renowned researcher in forced child labour and part of the plaintiffs’s legal team, said: “I hope our efforts are worthy of the courageous families who shared their immeasurable torment with us, and that justice and decency will triumph over the pursuit of profit at any cost.”

Cobalt is a precious metal used in the production of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries found in mobile phones, laptop computers, electric cars etc.

More than half of the world’s cobalt mines are located in the DRC and, according to Unicef, about 40,000 boys and girls are working in them.

A 2017 probe by Amnesty International found that major electronics companies were not doing enough to prevent rights abuses in their cobalt supply chains.

“Where a company has contributed to, or benefited from, child labour or adults working in hazardous conditions, it has a responsibility to remediate the harm suffered,” Amnesty said. 

“This means working with other companies and the government to remove children from the worst forms of child labour and support their reintegration into school as well as addressing health and psychological needs.”

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